This cranberry margarita makes a spiked cocktail for any occasion, whether Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a summer afternoon. The swizzle sticks aren’t essential yet add a little lovely bling.
Hola, tequila. Meet the luscious, gorgeous, ruby red cranberry. Together these two make a holiday drink that’ll dazzle your taste buds. Cranberries aren’t just for Thanksgiving sauce anymore. Now you can enjoy this tart berry with a little Grand Marnier, tequila, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The crystallized swizzle stick gives the cranberry margarita an extra little sparkle to impress yourself and others. [Editor’s Note: You gotta admit, this sweetly tart tequila concoction is really the most brilliant thing to happen to Thanksgiving since football. Think about it. You thought talking politics with Aunt Emma was fun after she’d had a few sips of wine. Imagine what’ll happen when you give her something a little stronger to sip.]–Veronica Gonzales-Smith
- Cocktail shaker; margarita or martini glasses; swizzle sticks (optional)
For the cranberry swizzle sticks (optional)
- One (16-ounce) package fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
For the margaritas
- 1 cup granulated sugar plus more for glasses
- Juice of 4 oranges (1 to 1 1/4 cups)
- One (16-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries
- Crushed ice
- 10 to 15 ounces silver tequila [Editor’s Note: Use a really decent one!]
- 5 ounces Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
- Orange twist for garnish
Make the cranberry swizzle sticks (optional)
- Rinse the cranberries in a colander and let dry at room temperature. Skewer several cranberries onto each swizzle stick, leaving enough of the stick exposed on one end so it can be held.
- In a large cup, mix the corn syrup and water. Lightly brush the skewered cranberries with the corn syrup mixture until lightly but completely coated. Sprinkle a generous amount of sugar over each cranberry skewer and shake off any excess.
- Place the cranberry swizzle sticks on parchment paper or aluminum foil and place in the freezer to set for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
Make the margaritas
- In a saucepan over low heat, warm the sugar and the orange juice, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves.
- Meanwhile, rinse the cranberries in a colander.
- Add the cranberries to the pan and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool.
- Once cool, pour the mixture into a blender and purée it. Strain the mixture into a pitcher, discarding any solids. (You can cover and stash it in the fridge until ready to use. It will thicken as it cools, so you’ll need to stir it just prior to using.)
- For each margarita, put some crushed ice, 1 to 1 1/2 ounces tequila, 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier, and 2 ounces cranberry purée in a shaker. Shake well.
- To serve, pour the margarita into a sugar-rimmed margarita or martini glass. Add a cranberry swizzle stick and/or an orange twist for garnish.
Virgin Cranberry Margarita VariationReplace the tequila and Grand Marnier with 2 ounces (1/4 cup) sparkling cider per margarita.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
A very elegant, gorgeous-looking, and quick cocktail. It’s especially gorgeous when you do the cranberry skewers, which can easily be prepared a day in advance, as can the cranberry purée. I did both margaritas—the regular one and the virgin one. I liked both, though I preferred the regular a little bit more. The virgin margarita was a lot sweeter, which wasn’t so much to my liking, but it’s a good choice for kids or the designated driver.
I used a good silver tequila, El Jimador, and Cointreau as well as frozen cranberries. I made the cranberry purée and the skewers a day in advance. The purée turned into a very stiff gel in the fridge but dissolved without problems in the shaker. A very nice cocktail with a great appearance.
Even given how hard it is to find cranberries, fresh or frozen, this drink was worth the effort. I opted not to use the cranberry swizzle sticks since I couldn’t find fresh cranberries. As for the drink itself, what more can one say besides, oh boy!? The cranberries, juice, and sugar go together so well. The resulting purée is delicious and such a pretty color.
The drink is easy to assemble and more than one taster asked for a second. I found the extra 1/2 ounce tequila made it a little strong for me, but using just 1 ounce tequila and keeping the other ingredients the same was a perfect cocktail for before-dinner appetizers. I should say that the editor is right in that a very good tequila should be used, as it’s the shining ingredient.
This is a nice festive holiday drink. While I usually associate cranberries with the winter holidays, there’s no reason they couldn’t be brought out for spring and summer as well. If you have the time, definitely make the swizzle sticks—they’re not complicated and take only a little bit of plan-ahead time to complete, and they add quite a lot of extra pizzazz to the drink.
I used frozen cranberries as I couldn’t currently find fresh ones. And, as always, I used a good silver tequila (I opted for 1800) and real Grand Marnier (rather than a cheap orange-flavored liqueur), which makes all the difference. The orange juice adds a nice fruity depth to the margaritas as well.
Originally published November 24, 2020